tips-avoiding-online-dating-scamMillions of Americans interact on dating websites or apps in the search for love or companionship, and cyber criminals have learned how to take advantage of these hopeful individuals. According to the FBI, reports of the online dating scam, sometimes called romance scams or catfishing scams, have tripled since 2012, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.

Online dating scammers create fake dating or social media profiles targeted to attract specific people based on the information they provide through the site. Sometimes these fake profiles can be modeled after real people, which can make it even more difficult to discern who is a scammer.

An online dating scam typically begins with the scammer being incredibly attentive—showering you with compliments, being accessible for long conversations and sharing “personal” experiences with you. These relationships are built over many months, sometimes years, which is another reason it is hard to spot a real relationship versus a scam.

Inevitably, though, a scammer will begin to ask for money, whether it’s through gifts, personal emergencies, or cash to come visit you (although they never do).  Some other warning signs to be on the lookout for include:

  • After only a few conversations, a scammer may admit strong feelings for you, or a deep connection they have never felt before.
  • A scammer will become desperate and persistent after requesting financial help.
  • The scammer’s profile may not be consistent with what they say in their conversations with you. For instance, they may claim to speak several languages, but never demonstrate it. Or, their profile says they have several college degrees, but their spelling is poor.
  • A scammer will also have an excuse for why their plans to visit you never work out.

Don’t fall for a scammer

If you meet someone online, be wary and watchful—especially if you are never able to make a face-to-face meeting work. And, never agree to transfer funds or send expensive gifts to an individual online.

For more information about what you can do to stay safe online, visit UMB information security, or read additional articles on being safe online:

4 tips for being more cyber secure

Avoiding tax return fraud: Here’s what to know

Infographic credit: The American Bankers Association.

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